Documents: Selling Prince
ON February 16, 2023
A deed of sale preserved in the Florence Griswold Museum’s archives provides the only evidence of Prince’s life in Lyme. In 1792, sixteen years after the Declaration of Independence proclaimed all men to be created equal, Elijah Ely (1743–1799) sold the eleven- or twelve-year-old boy to Richard Lord (1752–1818). The next census count would show that only 23 persons remained enslaved in Lyme in 1800, but even as slavery declined a boy could be sold for a price equivalent to about $5,500 today.
Connecticut’s 1784 Gradual Emancipation Act provided that enslaved boys born after March 1 of that year would become free at age 25. Prince, born in about 1780, was too old to gain the benefit of that Act. The deed of sale documenting his purchase states that the “Negro Boy” would “serve as a Negro Slave During the Term of His Natural Life.” Aside from this document, Prince does not appear in the historical record.
Discover the Deed of Sale:
Know all Men by these Presents that I Elijah Ely of the Town of Lyme in the county of New London and State of Connecticut for the consideration of thirty two pounds Lawfull Money to me in hand paid by Richard Lord of Lyme in the county aforesaid Do therefore by these presents Sell & convey unto Richard Lord his Heirs & Assigns forever one Negro Boy about Eleven or twelve years old named Prince to serve as a Negro Slave During the Term of His Natural Life hereby also promise to Warrant Secure and Defend the Above mentioned Negro boy to said Lord his Heirs &c against all Lawfull Claims or Demands of any person or persons whatsoever as witness my hand this 13 Day of March AD 1792 signed [sealed and] Delivered in .
[in presence of]
Noyes-Ely Family Collection, Box 1, #3, Lyme Historical Society Archives at the Florence Griswold Museum
Richard Lord acquired part of his father Enoch Lord’s extensive property and built his own house at Tantammahaeg, said to have good views of the Connecticut River and a farm behind. LHSA at FG Museum